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Climate: focus on actions not treaty, says UN official

Kyoto Protocol in jeopardy: UN climate chief
Bonn (AFP) May 3, 2010 - The Kyoto Protocol is under threat and political leaders should no longer skirt core questions about its destiny, the UN's top climate official told environment ministers from around the world Monday. "The question is on everybody's mind but, unfortunately, on nobody's lips: what, in all honesty, is the future of the Kyoto Protocol?," Yvo de Boer asked more than three dozen ministers gathered near Bonn to brainstorm on climate. "It is your responsibility to take this thorny topic by the horn," said de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). After the failure of the Copenhagen summit to craft a successor, Kyoto remains the only enforceable global treaty requiring industrialised nations to cut carbon emissions.

Its current provisions run out in 2012. Whether to tweak, bolster or bury the Protocol emerged as a red-hot issue last year, but was sidelined after the near collapse of the December conference. Developing countries, which are exempted from its provisions, have made it abundantly clear that they wish to see the Protocol extended. Some rich countries, especially those of the European Union, have said they remain open to this option. "But under what conditions?" de Boer asked the ministers. Framed in 1997 and put into force in 2005, Kyoto legally binds 37 so-called "Annex 1" industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas output by a total of more than five percent before 2012, compared to 1990 levels.

The efforts demanded from each country vary. Europe has already unilaterally committed to cuts of 20 percent by 2020, and is debating whether to increase that offer to 30 percent. The United States signed the protocol but never ratified it, objecting to the fact that it did not cover major emerging economies such as China, which has since become the world's top carbon polluter. Under the Obama administration, this position has not wavered. The fundamental question, the UN chief said, is what to use as a benchmark: the commitments other developing nations are willing to make, or the actions of the developing world.

De Boer doubted whether the EU and other Annex 1 nations will be willing to take on new commitments if equivalent US efforts are only written into national law. "How would one explain to voters in some industrialised countries, for example, that they have an international, legally-binding commitment when others do not?" he said. The presence of a double standard among rich nations -- international laws for some, national laws for others -- could erode the will of even the European Union, "and that in turn will mean the end of the Kyoto Protocol," he warned. Continuing to ignore the issue will only lead to greater confrontation, he added. The so-called Petersberg Climate Dialogue is the highest-level gathering of politicians on climate since Copenhagen. The two-and-a-half day closed door sessions ends tomorrow.
by Staff Writers
Bonn (AFP) May 3, 2010
Stymied global climate talks should shift focus from a polarising debate over a future treaty to immediate concrete action, the UN's top climate official said Monday.

A "good outcome" of the UN climate conference slated for late November in the Mexican seaside resort of Cancun would be "an operational architecture on climate change," said Yvo de Boer.

"How can we make action work on adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, capacity building and forests?

"Answer this, and then I think we would be in a position to decide if that should be turned into a treaty," he said on the margin of a meeting of several dozen world environment ministers in Germany.

The Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Bonn is the highest-level gathering on climate since the December Copenhagen summit, which fell far short of a deal strong enough to beat back the threat of global warming.

"Asking countries, especially developing countries, to sign up to a treaty in the absence of that clarity is like asking somebody to sign a blank cheque," added de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The 11th-hour Copenhagen Accord, hammered out under the threat of failure by a handful of nations, calls for keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The accord also promises 30 billion dollars in "fast track" financing before the end of 2012 for developing countries bracing for the climate change impacts, to be scaled up to 100 billion by 2020.

But annexed emissions pledges from some 77 countries -- rich and developing -- would put Earth on track for increases of 3.5 C or 4.0 C, a planetary disaster scenario, according to scientists.

And concerns about how the short-term funds will be spent and where long-term funding will come from have cast a long shadow over these commitments.

"There is insignificant progress in many industrialised countries in terms of putting in place the kind of policy and legislation that will be needed to achieve these targets," de Boer said.

"Fast start financing needs to flow now, and ministers need to indicate how to raise and manage the long-term financing," he said.

Echoing statements from rich nations and major emerging economies such as China and India, de Boer suggested that Cancun will be a half-way point to a more comprehensive deal at the end of 2011, or even beyond.

Chances are slim to nil, he said, that nations will up pledges to cut carbon emissions enough by year's end to meet the 2.0 C degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

"There is some flexibility to raise the ambition levels of the industrialised countries," he said, noting that the European Union was debating whether to boost its commitment from 20 to 30 percent by 2020, measured against a 1990 benchmark.

The EU move would help rebuild mutual trust and transparency, "which was very seriously damaged in Copenhagen," he said.

"But it will not be enough to get us into the ... range that the scientific community has indicated would give us a 50 percent chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change."

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Ministers huddle in bid to jump-start climate talks
Paris (AFP) April 30, 2010
More than three dozen environment ministers are to meet near Bonn, Germany this weekend in a bid to revive global climate talks left mangled and moribund after the UN summit in Copenhagen. It will be the highest-level political meeting on climate since the much-criticised December conference fell spectacularly short of delivering the binding treaty that nearly all nations say is needed to sp ... read more

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